by Jonas Terrado
Game Tuesday (Ynares Sports Arena, Pasig City)
4 p.m. — Cignal-Ateneo vs CEU
(Cignal-Ateneo leads series 2-1)
Cignal-Ateneo got its old swagger back and walloped Centro Escolar University, 67-52, to move a win away from capturing the PBA D-League crown at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Humbled by Tuesday’s 77-74 loss to the undermanned Scorpions, the Blue Eagles played with a business-like approach as evident with their second-half performance that saw them turn the contest into a blowout after a 36-33 lead early in the third.
Thirdy Ravena bucked a 4-of-17 shooting to finish with 17 points while Ange Kouame added 10 points, seven rebounds and nine blocks for Cignal-Ateneo, which will go for the clincher on Tuesday at the same venue.
“The reminder of (Cignal-Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin) is that we have to be mentally present each game,” said assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga, noting how the Blue Eagles lacked the fire that allowed CEU to score an upset victory the last time.
Isaac Go, earlier named as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, returned from missing Game 2 with an illness with five points and five rebounds. Go beat out Ravena and the City of Valencia-San Sebastian duo of RK Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi for the coveted award.
Maodo Malick Diouf produced 19 points and 20 rebounds but CEU couldn’t replicate its Game 2 victory as the Blue Eagles responded in a big way.
Jerome Santos, who averaged 20.0 points in the first two games, was held to five points on a dismal 1-of-15 shooting while Rich Guinitaran made just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Cignal-Ateneo scored nine straight points to gain a 45-33 lead on two Matt Nieto free throws with over three minutes in the third.
The Blue Eagles padded their lead to 55-37 with 8:18 left in the fourth when the game was halted for 25 minutes due to ceiling leaks caused by the heavy rain.
Kouame gave Cignal-Ateneo its biggest lead at 26 points, 65-39, with 5:55 left in the fourth.
CIGNAL-ATENEO 67 — Ravena 12, Kouame 10, Mi. Nieto 9, Ma. Nieto 8, Andrade 5, Go 5, Daves 5, Navarro 4, Belangel 0, Tio 0, Credo 0, Mamuyac 0.
CEU 52 — Diouf 19, Bernabe 9, Guinitaran 8, Sunga 7, Santos 5, Diaz 4, Abastillas 0.
Quarters: 17-13, 32-27, 49-37, 67-52.